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Hedo Dome - Challenging, Spooky Cavern Diving

By: John Chandler

Date Posted: 2001-01-12

At the very tip of Northern Okinawa rests Hedo Point. On the very infrequent, but much anticipated calm days of winter (or summer), Hedo Point harbors dive sites kept secret by any number of experienced divers here on Okinawa. None are more jealously guarded than the Hedo Dome. The "Dome" is the only dive site on this island that is actually a dive "into" the island.

The Hedo Dome, located just around the corner from Ginama, can only be dove from a boat. Further, this is a dive that should only be attempted by the most experienced of divers that are absolutely sure of their abilities. As you read on you will understand why.

The Dome must have been formed by an air pocket when the molten earth masses were rising from the sea. It is a huge void inside and under the cliffs just to the left of Highway 329 north of Ginama. There are boat captains from that small port village that will carry divers out to the entrance of the dome. The entrance is located in about 45 feet of water under the sheer cliffs. A huge opening invites divers into an ever-darkening passage. The cavernous opening turns into a 15-foot wide tube that rises into the Dome itself. When entering this wide-open cavern the tube entrance is at the rear and just to the left of a huge column rising from the floor of the cavern and appears to be more like a column holding the huge roof up. This "Column" is actually a huge stalactite/stalagmite that is a left over from more than 10,000 years ago when this land was above water. This column is a product of dripping water that produced this large round formation and reminded me of huge tree trunk set in the middle of a cavern.

Rounding past this landmark and up into the tube you can easily travel through this passage. In here the temperature of the water begins to get remarkably cooler, remarkably fast. Along with this change in temperature the clarity of the water changes from murky, to a blurry hard-to-focus kind of water, and then into very clear fresh water. At this point the stalactites begin hanging down from both sides of the tube opening. These welcome divers into the Dome itself. But the water is cold! Clear but cold. When you shine flashlights up to guide your ascent into the Dome you are looking into mirror like water. It is spooky and exciting all at the same time.

Upon surfacing the Dome is illuminated only by diver's flashlights. Here, in the Dome, the interior is cave-like with 1000s of stalactites hanging down resembling what I thought looked like the old pipe organs from European cathedrals. So I suppose it is safe to describe this 75-100 foot dome as a Cathedral ceiling! The echoes from divers' voices bounce around and divers begin to realize that their breaths are vaporizing from the cool temperature of the air mixing with their warmer exhalations. It continues to be spooky but for a shutterbug like me it is a very exciting and challenging experience. Light from flashlights and camera flash assemblies bounce and reflect in all directions as divers and fellow shutterbugs attempt to record these memories on film. The chilly water makes our stay shorter than we may have liked but we still have the trip back down the tunnel tube, past the large tree trunk of a stalactite, before we get to the caverns opening and back out to daylight.

On our way out we enjoyed a little bit of sightseeing. Our discovery revealed a room off to the right of the exit that appears to be a room of stalagmites jutting up from the floor of the underwater room. The fine powdery sediment on the floor and across these stalagmites lit up like fresh fallen snow in a valley of pine trees. What a wonderful sight to see. But we needed to keep up with our guide and group so we did not linger too long. We descended back down the entry, and only, tube that leads back to the much warmer main cavern.

Angelfish and the blue glow of the sun shining down into the water at the mouth of the cavern greeted us as we exited the tube from the Dome. We have enjoyed having the excellent guide provided by our dive boat. This allayed much of our anxiety about swimming into the unknown darkness. The dome has been experienced and it was wonderful. Would I do it again? Well that water in the dome was really cold, and it was really dark in that small tube on the way in, and we really did almost get lost once or so my daughter thought, but when all is said and done my dive did satisfy my curiosity and I would go back (in a heartbeat).

The Hedo Dome may reveal even more than just excitement. Research does show that human beings may have inhabited the Dome at the same time that Monuments were being carved very near the island of Yonaguni. As the Ice Age ended (and is still ending) seawater began to infiltrate into the Dome. The stalagmites/stalactites reveals that this dome was in the open for thousands of years before the ocean took it back into her control. With all of that in mind, the reality of the Dome and its historical significance made swimming in this dark, weird, and cold area all the more exciting.

Should you embark on a expedition to the Hedo Dome I cannot encourage you enough to do this dive ONLY WITH PROFESSIONALS that are well versed in both cave and cavern diving and please only attempt this dive with an experienced dive. You do not need to be that much a part of history that you stay there forever.

If you would like to find out more about the Hedo Dome please contact Mr. Rich Ruth at FATHOMS DIVE SHOP or send him an e-mail at getwet@fathoms.net or 090 8766 0868.

For more about this kind of weird, and very exciting diving check out my website and view the Monuments of Yonaguni at www.jwchandler.com/yonaguni.htm See you at the Beach, but NOT in the cave.

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